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Why is kidney disease so often undiagnosed in the Medicare population?

On Behalf of | Jul 18, 2021 | Failure to Diagnose |

If you are age 65 or older, you stand a very good chance of having chronic kidney disease. Unfortunately, however, you also stand a very good chance of your CKD going undiagnosed by your Medicare primary care physician.

A recent study by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services revealed that although upwards of 37 million adults have CKD, approximately 90% of them are unaware that they have it because they have not received an official diagnosis.

CKD stages

CKD is a progressive disease with the following stages:

  • Stage 1: kidney damage, but still normal kidney function
  • Stage 2: mild kidney function loss
  • Stage 3a: mild to moderate kidney function loss
  • Stage 3b: moderate to severe kidney function loss
  • Stage 4: severe kidney function loss
  • Stage 5: kidney failure leading to death

Associated health problems

In its earlier stages, CKD is asymptomatic, meaning that you likely will feel fine and show no symptoms. Left undiagnosed and untreated, however, CKD not only ultimately progresses to kidney failure, but also can produce other health issues, including the following:

  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Cancer
  • Anemia
  • Dementia

Testing for CKD

Screening for CKD requires two tests: a blood test that measures your serum creatinine and a urine test that measures your albumin level. Unfortunately, many primary care physicians within the Medicare system fail to schedule these tests as part of your routine care.

Consequently, your wisest strategy consists of requesting your primary care physician to order these tests. This is especially true if you fit into one or more of the following demographic groups:

  • Women
  • NonHispanic blacks
  • Age 65 or older

You may also wish to request a consultation with a nephrologist, a specialist who devotes his or her practice to kidney care.